A Visit to Vermont
Outside of various European cycle clubs and sportives, I’ve never seen so many classic steel-framed road bikes as I have in North America. Specifically, Toronto and Montreal, where classic Peugeots and Bianchis are common. Visiting my sister-in-law in Vermont, she insisted her husband show me his “Italian bike”.
Sure enough, the Vermontian had inherited an old mid-70s Atala Milano from his father – and made good choices having it restored. He kept the obscure, Swiss, Weinmann components where possible. But who can resist the allure of 70s Campagnolo shifters? It wouldn’t have been cheap.
Lugs and welding aren’t skills that have been consigned to history and some bike makers still dabble in the dark arts. Bad boy Tom Warmerdam is flying the flag, but considering his bikes take at least 100 hours to build, you have to be prepared to spend big.
So, what do you get – aside from a perfect bike fit and quality welding that would make an 80-year-old Colnago factory welder blush? You get lugs and nothing but the lugs. The bikes are laminated steel and that’s the end of the colour scheme. The devil is most definitely in the detail.
Where Warmerdam’s style is English – self-consciously reserved – the Italians have been hamming it up for generations. There’s Machiavellian mischief to the style, an application of the Harlequin palette. The Italians abandon sprezzatura when it comes to bicycles – for good reason. Observe:
When it comes to Deities, the Italians are clearly attached to the Catholic tradition of worship through beauty. The lugs on this fork would have Martin Luther nailing a notice to his local bike shop. Despite coming from the protestant tradition, I simply cannot argue with this style.
You’ve been framed
Be kind to your parents, and your uncles and aunts. You never know what your inheritance may offer – or what garage or shed they might ask you to help clear out. Keep an eye out for steel frames. The best of them, the fair-weather bikes, may not have been used that much. Look at this gem.
My final advice would be to ride whatever frame you find. As you can see from Vermont – a well-used bike that had a budget groupset – can easily be restored to a vintage bike that is still a joy to look at. And a pleasure… no, a privilege to ride. Now, show us what you’ve got.